I. NEW GUYS AND NEW BEGINNINGS
A drop of silver sweat rolled into my eyes, causing them to burn as I bent my upper body forward, I hastily rubbed them when I caught a glance of my reflection in the mirror. My hair was tied in a tight bun, except for a few stray strands framing my face. My hazel eyes had a red rim surrounding its pupil, probably due to the invasion of sweat, and my pink lips were stretched into a thin line. My usually fair skin was flushed in the cheeks and my chest rose up and down heavily as I gasped for air. The satin fabric of my black pajama clung to my body as my collarbones glistened with sweat.
My eyes wandered to the bedside clock and realizing, I still had enough time to get ready for school, I stood up lazily. My lower body ached and I stumbled a little as I reached for the towel kept on my bed. Stealing a final glance at the mirror, I finally walked into the washroom.
I felt a lot better after freshening up as the horrible smell of sweat was washed away and now, I felt like I could finally breathe. I looked outside the window while drying my brown hair. The sky was unusually darker today as clouds blanketed the entire town. The summer in Victoria Falls never feels like summer. It’s always gloomy and has a sense of deep darkness to it which I could never figure out. However, today was extra inky and something about it didn’t just feel right to me.
I loved Victoria Falls, considering it was my hometown. I had every memory here from childhood to adulthood. I’ll be completing high school this year and the next year I’ll be all the way across the country in California studying at UCLA, doing a major in Psychology. The thing was that in a small town like this, there was very little chance of getting a well-paid job, and considering my lack of family line, I had to provide for myself.
My mother died while giving me birth and my father abandoned me when I was just seven years old. I can’t really blame him and call him an ungenerous dick because he did leave me with shelter and even though it could barely sustain the rain, it was still better than nothing. He always used to tell me that I was a mistake and when I was a kid I never understood the meaning of that.
But now I do.
The surprising part of this was that it didn’t hurt me with the magnitude it should. Turns out when you don’t have any parents and get transferred from one foster home to another, after being apparently labeled as a brat, it really fucks with your emotions.
My internal rambling came to a stop when I heard Maria’s soft voice coming from her bedroom.
“Hey, Krys! Can you come over for a sec?” she asked, her tone lacing with a twinge of worry.
Maria Jordan was the only person in the world who understood me and accepted me for who I was, not who I was supposed to be. Since childhood, I had always faced trouble in socializing with people. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, it was just because I couldn’t.
Socializing and befriending somebody meant opening up to them and letting one’s guard down. And whenever somebody had let their guards down, they had allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the deadly evils and demons in the world. And, I couldn’t do that to myself.
I couldn’t break free of the concrete walls that I had surrounded myself with ever since my dad left. I couldn’t even bear to think of the immeasurable pain I would have had to go through if I did that again. And for this reason, I was often seen as repulsive and arrogant.
However, the only exception was her. She accepted me with all my flaws and never blocked me out as an outcast. I still remembered the day I forgot to bring my lunch and Maria shared hers with me. The memory brought a small smile to my lips every time I reminisced about it.
Smiling to myself, I walked inside her bedroom. I leaned against the cold surface of her pastel pink door, the scratched off sticker itching against my revealed skin. My gaze lazily roamed around her immaculate room until they settled on her horror-stricken expression.
We lived in a very small dorm, so we had to keep the TV in her bedroom since I wasn’t that fond of television, and also because our dining area was too small for any extra equipment.
I dragged my eyes to the direction of her trembling fingers.
It was a news channel, broadcasting live from the church in our town.
’Two dead bodies found near the Victoria Falls Church. Animal attack.′ Read the headlines.
Victoria Falls had been a victim of animal attacks for the past four years now. The people were killed in such a gruesome way that sometimes it became practically impossible to even distinguish whether the victim was a male or female.
And today’s latest victims were a married couple who were only able to be identified due to their wedding attires as their faces were smashed up, bodies mangled.
I scrunched up my nose at the images. I know I shouldn’t feel disgusted, but the bodies were mangled so badly, that I immediately felt nausea crawl up the back of my throat. So, I walked out of the room over to the kitchen counter, only to be followed by Maria.
“Kris...” she began, her voice dropping a decibel lower than usual.
“Look, Mare. Stop being so paranoid and stupid. This is not new,” I groaned while opening the upper cupboard. I rummaged through the shelf for a while until my fingers grasped the rough edge of the packet of cereal.
“Seriously? Look, Kris, I’m not as fierce or as much of a badass fighter like you. I don’t even know how to throw a punch. And these animal attacks. I don’t think you would be great against them too. So yes, I’m worried and today we are going to the Mayor-” she started rambling but I interrupted her.
“Yeah? Enlighten me what can a Mayor do?” I drawled lazily while pouring the milk into my black bowl.
It wasn’t like I hated the Mayor or anything. It’s just that he was a really arrogant, cocky, and weird old man who had no intention of helping the Victoria Falls native. I clearly remember that once there was a theft in a jewelry shop and all the Mayor did was rub his running nose while nodding his head at the victim’s words.
“Look. I get what you are saying, but this is a serious issue. Someone needs to come forward. Someone’s got to stop these animals,” Maria sighed exasperatedly, pulling at the thick and wavy strands of her honey blonde hair.
I poured the cereals into my bowl and swirled them with my spoon, taking my sweet time to sit on one of the dark red stools before the kitchen table.
“And what’s your take on that?” I asked in a mocking tone, raising one of my chestnut brown eyebrows.
For a moment she fumbled around for words, her eyes barely meeting mine as I munched on my breakfast. And after a painful moment of silence, she threw a guilty glance at me, the corners of her lips drooping.
“That’s what I thought,” I said after licking my lips dry. My eyes wandered over to the white wall behind her and I studied the date on the calendar, an idea suddenly popping into my brain.
I looked back at her. She still had that stupid frown plastered across her face.
“Besides,” I started while stirring the remaining of my cereals, and looking at her inquisitively, “shouldn’t you worry about meeting your ass of an ex-boyfriend?” I deliberately asked trying to change the topic.
“Shit! I forgot!” she exclaimed - her mood shifting instantly at the mention of the new topic.
I inwardly smirked at my mini-victory. But a part of me couldn’t help but wonder how easy it was to distract the person who was claiming to be extremely concerned about nature just a few minutes ago.
“Today’s the first day after summer camp. Oh god,” she groaned but continued, “How the fuck am I supposed to talk to Roberts without letting myself rip his throat out? That sick bastard,” she seethed while shielding her eyes with her palms.
Roberts Kennington was Maria’s two-year long-term boyfriend or rather, ex-boyfriend. He was a strong-built man in his early twenties who worked at Google. Their love story was just like a fairytale and too good to be true. It only took them a few dates after sliding into each other’s ‘dms’ to “fall irrevocably in love”.
But that didn’t last long as Roberts decided to use his dumbass head and cheat on Maria.
Truth be told, I kind of saw it coming. He was seven years older than Maria. Seven years for God’s sake! I mean when Maria was just ten; he was probably screwing around with a lot of girls. I had warned Maria a lot about him but her lovesick nature made her blind to my words and his mistakes.
However, the shock hit me when I found out that it was her cousin with whom he cheated on her. Turns out, that she worked in the same building as his and was also near his age. The cheating apparently was going on for a long time since it ultimately caused her cousin to get pregnant.
“Are they getting married?” I asked giving a final lick to my bowl.
“Yes. And that is the only reason why I am going to talk to Roberts today because Mum wants me to act mature and forget the past. She wants me to accept the invitation and go to their wedding to watch them saying ‘I do’ to each other with goo-goo eyes. Disgusting,” she whined but her soft doe eyes glowed menacingly.
“Does Roberts even want to marry her?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I don’t know. But my guess would be no because that guy just wants to put his dick in any and everything that breathes and has a hole between its legs,” she scoffed, and I burst out laughing causing her to join me too.
I squeezed her hand which was resting on the tabletop.
“It’s going to be okay, Mare. I’ll be having your back,” I gave her an assuring smile and she returned it with a grateful one.
“Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done without you,” she murmured as she smiled fondly at me.
“Died. Duh. Or go crazy, there are so many options,” I shrugged while walking over to the sink.
After putting the bowl in the sink, I rinsed my mouth one last time. I turned around to catch Maria rolling her eyes at my comment and simultaneously trying to hide a grin.
“Anyway let’s go. We’re going to be late otherwise,” she announced while exiting the room, her untamed curls dancing wildly behind her.
Students from every year of school flocked the campus grounds as we slowly made our way through them. It was the first day after summer camp and spirits of enthusiasm roared through the ambiance surrounding her.
I felt a little relaxed and refreshed in the presence of the cheerful spirits but it was soon diminished when I spotted the cheerleaders approaching us.
“Hi, Krys. How was your vac?” Shelly asked with a fake smile. Her silky black hair descended down her shoulders in waves and her low cut pink cardigan left nothing to anyone’s imagination.
I couldn’t even comprehend how such clothes were allowed in school.
“It was amazing. And, it’s Krystal for you,” I replied returning her sickly sweet smile.
“Oops. I forgot how sensitive you are to the names,” her lips droop down mockingly.
I don’t even bother replying as I excused myself from them and walked away with Maria, only to have them string along with us.
“These bitches are even faker than plastic,” I grumbled into Maria’s ears causing her to giggle in response.
Like every typical high school, students were divided into a hierarchy. The school president at the top, the jock and the cheerleader below them, then the rest of the student body. And being a cheerleader, I was quite popular, much to my discontent.
I never really liked the attention of people as I felt it suffocating. It was like being under the spotlight constantly and letting people follow, and gush about my every little movement. I was a very secretive person which was a stark contrast to Maria’s personality. She, on the other hand, loved the attention and always complained about how I was more popular than her. She was the type of girl who would go to the church on weekends, post on social media about every little thing with an annoying hashtag just for appearance’s sake. She was the people pleaser while I was just a rude and straightforward teenager.
I still wondered how two completely opposite persons like us could become such good friends.
As we were walking to our classes, I caught the snippets of their conversation about ‘new boys’, ‘joining school’, ‘hot’.
Just like always.
“Don’t get me wrong. I do love to have hot boys in my life but do these girls ever get any topic other than hot boys?” I asked glancing back at them as Maria rolled her eyes.
“Apparently some new students are joining the school who also happen to be ‘some hot boys’ ” she air quotes, “and they are freaking excited cause they can’t wait to get to suck their dicks,” she said, making a face at her own comment.
“Ew. Gross. TMI Mare!” I smacked her arm and she chuckled.
“What? Ask them for yourself if you think I’m wrong,” she winked at me and I rolled my eyes.
“No thanks,” I scoffed, and soon after we both broke into laughter.
We were so engrossed in our conversation that we were hardly paying any attention to our surroundings and ended up bumping straight into two rock hard pillars. The said pillars happened to be actually, the rock hard chests of two tall guys. The impact was so hard that I was knocked off of my feet but a large arm quickly hooked around my waist and pulled me in. Immediately his warmth and scent of masculinity and aftershave engulfed me. I looked up and was met with a pair of baby blue eyes with a glint of amusement hiding behind them.
Our proximity was too close for my liking as I felt his warm breaths fanning my face. Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see that everyone had stopped in their tracks and were watching us intently. I could hear the minions gushing about his beauty, and realizing the show we were putting up for everyone, I immediately untangled myself from him.
I straightened my clothes as I looked up to see him having a small smirk on his face. He had dark black hair that reached down to the back of his neck, and his long lashes made his blue eyes look livelier. The high cheekbones, plump lips, and the sharp jawline gave an edge to his beauty. There was almost something devilish in his features, and the low light did nothing but heighten them.
“Hey. I’m sorry,” the guy who bumped into Maria apologized.
His deep grey eyes swirled with golden and green flecks and his thick black hair curled around the fair skin of his neck. It took me a moment to realize that there was a weird similarity between him and the guy beside him. Although, unlike the guy with blue eyes, his features were not heightened by the dim light - giving him an angelic glow.
He was pretty by the normal standards of beauty but was too much clean-cut - being a stark contrast to the looks of the guy beside him.
“Brother, why are you apologizing? It’s their fault. They were the ones walking blindly,” the guy with the baby blue eyes stated, his eyes taking us in lazily.
“Well, you could have walked out-of-the-way,” I shrugged.
“You don’t own this school, do you?” the first guy quipped.
“What the-” I began but was rudely interrupted by my best friend.
“Okay fine. Look we are sorry okay? My friend here has a weird way of apologizing,” I glowered at her but she ignored me and continued, “but you are to be equally blamed. We wouldn’t have bumped into you guys if you would have walked out-of-the-way or given us a head-start probably.”
“Yeah, sorry,” said the guy with grey eyes while the other one threw us a look of disinterest.
Fuck you too, asshole.
“By the way, I’m Cameron Harvey,” the polite guy who had previously apologized to us, introduced.
Then his eyes quickly flicked back to the guy beside him, and nobody could miss the immediate darkness that shadowed his face. He sighed, almost imperceptibly, then added, “And this is my brother Carter Harvey,” he tilted his head in the direction of his brother.
So blue eyes were of Carter’s. Even the name was trouble.
Meanwhile, Cameron held his hand out to me, and I gave it a polite shake.
“I am Krystal LaGuerrie and this is my best friend Maria Jordan.”
Maria smiled at him and he shook her hand.
“Um. Could you tell me where class 1019A is?” Cameron asked.
“Uh yeah sure” I pointed him in the right direction, and he nodded while giving me a polite smile.
“Thanks, Krystal. It was nice meeting you both. Maybe if you are free, we can hang out during lunch?” he asked, and I could see the hope twinkling behind his eyes.
I cast an inquisitive glance at Maria who gave me her consent by nodding.
“Sure,” I said, smiling back at him.
“Okay then, see ya at lunch.”
We were about to part ways, but not before Carter sliding a snide remark to me, “Such a shame that those beautiful eyes cannot be put to use. Next time look where you are going, Hazel?”
“Excuse me? But my name is Krystal, not Hazel,” I grabbed him by the arm - making him halt and stumble back a little.
He frowned at me, “Of course your name is Krystal. It’s your eye I’m talking about.”
He must’ve clearly seen the confusion etched on my face as he continued to explain, ” consider it a nickname. To the world you are Krystal, to me you are Hazel.”
He glanced at my hand which was still wrapped around his arm and I immediately dropped it to my sides.
“So we’re on a nickname basis now huh?” I raised my eyebrows at him.
He just winked at me and strode off.
“Jerk,” I mumbled. Hot jerk my brain supplied.
Maria looked at me in resignation and announced, “Obnoxious jerk. How classic.”
“Couldn’t agree more.”
Something told me we weren’t going to get along, and this is just the beginning.